I offer this story as a cautionary tale, to dispel the pizzazz of 2-day HGTV renovation shows, and give my humble take on what’s appropriate to DIY and what really ought to be left to the pros.
Publish date:
August 21, 2012
home decor, living the dream

Lemme back this home-reno-train up just a wee bit. I know we seem kinda unhitched for buying a home that appears best “renovated” by a bulldozer. And we can laugh over our original plan to buy something "move-in ready." Yeah, we actually started by only looking at places we could move right into. OK, slap some paint on it if we must. But we didn’t go out looking for this pup. It sort of found us, I swear!

Remember how I mentioned finding a real estate printout of the house in the back seat and asking to go see it? That wasn’t supposed to be there. OK, that’s kind of dramatic. No one in the car remembered printing it out, it was JUST outside the block perimeter we were currently looking at, and um, it was a total piece of shite. So in theory, that piece of paper shouldn’t have been there for inquisitive minds to find.

Oh, those crazy kids (can you refer to almost-30 as kids?). I seriously agree.

CRAZY, STUPID, FOOLISH -- the list could go on. I offer this story as a cautionary tale, to dispel the pizzazz of 2-day HGTV renovation shows, and give my humble take on what’s appropriate to DIY and what really ought to be left to the pros. We’ve made (and are still making) those sort of mistakes so you don’t have to!

Going into this, I was super green. My favorite thing on HGTV is House Hunters International, not even a renovation show! I’d never visited a home reno blog and my favorite thing about Home Depot is the smell. I’ve never done much hammer swinging and I always switch up which screwdriver is a Phillips head. And then I bought a crackpot of a house. OH, the madness of it all.

You know how they say love is a feeling? Like, you’re supposed to “just know”? And no one can really explain it any further than that? I clutched my inhaler in sweaty palm as I tried not to breath in the obvious toxicity of this house during our walk-through. And even though we couldn’t even walk into all the rooms, I don’t know, it was just THERE.

I distinctly remember walking around to the back yard and we looked at each other, and we just sort of nodded with a twinkle in our eyes.


We had compiled a mental list of house wishes. Roughly speaking, we were aiming for"

1. front yard2. back yard 3. hardwood floors 4. basement with tallish ceilings5. at least 2 bedrooms6. decent neighborhood

As it turns out, really few places met the criteria, in our price range anyway.

Our house being set back from the sidewalk is still something that totally pins me rosy. I’ve always sort of felt unsettled when I’m sitting in my living room and there’s just like, people standing RIGHT outside my window. I suddenly feel on display, like a zoo animal or something. Plus, you totally cannot saunter around partly nude (skinny jeans are not TV-watching comfortable, no matter how you spin it), or hide from chatty neighbors, or pretend you don’t watch crap reality shows, because everyone is all up on your sidewalk-front-door biz. Comprende?

I wanted a backyard to do morning yoga (KIDDING, I only wish I did this). But a bit of green space in a city is a certain luxury. In Philadelphia, I’ve only ever had a patch of cement, which is sort of prisonesque. And I’ve attempted the whole planted pot garden thing, and killed every damn one, for shame. Plus, isn’t it sort of a dream to drizzle your toes across a patch of lush grass, particularly one you own so you don’t have to worry about needles and stuff?

Hardwood floors are a beaut for allergy nerds like me. IHTM: I learned to silent sneeze by the 3rd grade to stop disrupting the class when I was hit with FIFTEEN SNEEZES IN A ROW.

The basement + tall ceilings was a deadly combo. (I just realized the irony of this statement when I tell you about what we found in the basement. TO COME!) This equals potential future living space.

Ignore the fear in his eyes.

The extra bedroom is a no-brainer. And while my biological clock is jumping up and down shouting, “For a baby, please say for a baby,” it’s really for drunk friends and post-Jonas Brothers concert sleepovers with my sweet lil’ niece. ASIDE: Take a tween to a concert. They will FREAK out and it will be the most adorbs 2 hours to witness ever.

She even made an "I love u Nick & Kevin" sign.

As for a decent block, this one had us by the knees. For all our house’s defects, nearly every other house lined up alongside it is a gem. This block practically purrs.

But still, the question we hear so often is “What made you…?” and rightfully so!

When I really consider it, I honestly don’t know how clear our heads were at the time. It had been one year since D’s health drama began, and a handful of months out from his last hospitalization, followed by at-home nurse care.

There were no answers as to why this was happening, how to treat it, and what the future held. I was frazzled and desperate to find an answer a doctor couldn’t give us. And the few times we did surface in public, it seemed the only thing people wanted to talk about was D’s illness. I sometimes felt like an old, moth-eaten dress: attempting to persevere despite gaping holes.It’s weird to reflect on our emotional/metal state at the time and how it likely affected our decision. And I know it sounds awful dramatic, but at the time, life felt bloated, like everything was just exaggerated and dark-tinged and so you just shrug and go with it, because really, what else can you do? It’s a weird spin, for everything to be such a big deal that it like, equalizes out or something and thus, it all felt like nothing. Like nothing was actually a big deal at all.So we acquired this house, which I suppose is better than a drug habit.